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  • Writer's picturePaul


Fritjoff Halvorsen was the self-styled “king” of the Norse settlement of Lax Hlaup—now Leixlip in Kildare, Ireland—from AD 853–55. He was also, if legend is to be believed, the inventor of the armoured personnel carrier. Or, at least, an ancient pre-cursor to it.

Some Vikings. Guy in the bottom left is mid-anecdote. (Wikipedia)

The story goes that in order to impress his dominance upon the locals of Lax Hlaup, Fritjoff ordered the construction of an enormous 12-wheeled armoured cart in which to house himself and 15 of his most loyal bodyguards while they travelled through his kingdom.

The cart was said to be four wood panels thick on all sides to protect from assault; adorned with the kinds of wooden figureheads more usually seen on Viking longships; and rimmed with studs and sharp blades to deter anyone approaching. As if that wasn’t menacing enough, Fritjoff later added flaming torches to the roof in order to better intimidate anyone foolish enough to challenge his authority. His Health and Safety department would have had fits.

Alas, Fritjoff’s mighty makeshift man-carrying cart met an ignominious end when he came up with bright idea of using it to charge his enemies by rolling it down hillsides to break through their shield walls. Reportedly during its first test run down Dun Ailinne hill, just outside modern-day Leixslip, five of the cart’s wheels buckled and shattered to pieces, and the whole sorry contraption was sent careening into some nearby rocks. The poor thrall who had been placed inside was killed in the impact, and what remained of Fritjoff’s once-imposing cart was reportedly left to be chopped up for firewood by the locals. I’m assuming they pulled the dead thrall out of the wreckage first, of course.


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